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12 hours ago · Bicycle and E-bike safety in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Summer is here, and bicycling is on the upswing. Older adults often find benefits to bicycling as a form of transportation and exercise, such as being gentle on the joints and allowing one to cover more ground than walking. In addition, newly popular E-bikes have battery-powered motors that allow you to go 20 miles an hour or more. E-bikes do some of the work for you, which means you may feel more comfortable going greater distances or up more challenging hills than you would otherwise — possibly letting you keep up with a group or partner who is faster.

Whether you ride a traditional bicycle or an E-bike, it’s important to abide by bike safety recommendations. And because e-bikes can be heavier and operated at a faster speed than traditional bikes, they also come with unique risks. Remember to:

  • Always wear a helmet. Helmets should fall slightly above your eyebrows. and feel snug — you shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers under your chin strap when buckled.
  • Use tools such as reflective gear and front and rear lights to increase visibility.
  • Think about where you want to bike, and use bike paths, bike lanes or streets that allow you to avoid heavy traffic. Check your local laws to make sure e-bikes are allowed on bike paths.
  • Always bike in the direction of traffic. Don’t suddenly change direction or forget to signal, as a driver may not anticipate your movement.
  • Enhance your riding confidence. If you want to brush up on your bike skills, look for a local class offered by your local bike store or the League of American Bicyclists.
  • Start out slowly. Remember that cars might misjudge how fast an e-bike can go. Faster speeds mean it will take longer for you to brake. Try using the least electric assist to start and work your way up.

 

Talk to others about how you stay fit in a safe way at the Healthy Living group.

 

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Tue, May 19 10:00am · Screen time and grandkids in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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If you have grandchildren, it’s important to understand what’s appropriate — and not — for kids and screens. Technology provides kids opportunities to learn about their world, expand their imaginations and connect positively with friends and family.

The danger comes when kids are allowed too much screen time, which can lead to speech delays, inactivity, obesity and mental health challenges including stress, isolation and depression.There’s also danger in consuming unhealthy content that is violent, overly commercialized, involves bullying or is otherwise negative.

Consider these tips for healthy screen use:

  • Screen time before bed can interfere with sleep, which is why it’s recommended that screens be kept out of bedrooms and put away at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Try to provide a child with the same message from all care providers, and model healthy screen use when you are around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that each family craft screen guidelines with a media use plan.
  • Safe and educational content is produced by the Public Broadcasting Service. For other content, check Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that provides parent-focused reviews of games, shows and apps commonly used by children.

Join others talking about kids — and grand kids — in the About kids & teens support group.

 

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Tue, May 12 10:00am · Suicide and older adults in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with about 45,000 people taking their own lives in 2017. Understandably, teen or younger adult suicide gets a lot of notice and attention. However, suicide rates among older adults are similar or greater than in younger groups — with older, white males having the highest rates of any demographic.

Suicide warning signs may include mood or behavior changes or a worsening psychiatric problem. There may be a sense of intense hopelessness, feeling trapped or feeling that there’s no reason to go on living — or there may be increased anger, anxiety or agitation.  Impulsive or reckless actions may increase. Other behaviors may include increasing medication, alcohol or drug use, increased or decreased sleep and withdrawing from others.

Another important indication is thinking about or planning suicide. Talking about death can be normal and healthy, particularly among older adults who are nearing the end of their lifespan. However, talk of death or suicide can escalate, which should prompt intervention. Levels include:

  • Lower risk with evaluation needed, though not urgently — This includes talk or thoughts that life isn’t worth living or that one would be better off dead, but with no specific plans or intent for suicide. This can be more passive in nature, such as wishing God will take you or wishing you would not wake up from sleep.
  • High risk with immediate evaluation needed — This includes someone having ideas of suicide plus a plan of how to go about it, but without indication of intent to follow through.
  • Highest risk with immediate, emergency care needed — This includes someone with serious thoughts of suicide, including suicide plans, intent and means to carry it out or agitation and indications that impulses can’t be controlled.

Suicide risk fluctuates, and can sometimes reach a point in severity in which urgent help is needed. Calling 911 or a local emergency number — or getting to an emergency department — is appropriate for people who appear to be at high risk of harming themselves.

At any level of risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an excellent resource where you can reach a trained counselor at any time by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

It’s not easy to talk about, but joining the discussion at the Depression & Anxiety group can be a way to share your story and help others.

Tue, May 5 3:14pm · Skin disease and hand washing: soothing a flare up in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Hand washing with soap and warm water is one of the best defenses against spreading the COVID-19 virus, and it’s common and even expected that the skin will become dry or irritated from appropriately increased frequency of hand washing.

Appropriate hand washing can be an especially problematic if you have a skin condition that is flaring up — such as dermatitis or eczema. When applying hand lotion after washing isn’t enough to keep your skin condition under control, — you can add these additional steps:

  • After washing, thoroughly rinsing and patting dry, apply and rub in a layer of hypoallergenic moisturizing lotion or cream.
  • For extra moisturization, wait a minute or so after the first application, then apply again.
  • Apply an ointment on top. Ointment doesn’t absorb into skin, but it slows the natural evaporation of moisture from the skin.
  • After, wear a pair of socks or gloves during down time — such as when sleeping or watching a movie — to additionally trap moisture into your skin.

If that’s still not enough, try applying your own wet dressing with these steps:

  • After washing, thoroughly rinsing and patting dry, apply two thick layers of moisturizing lotion or cream. It should be thick enough to see residue on your hands.
  • Do not apply ointment.
  • Mix a teaspoon of white vinegar into an 8 oz glass of warm water and stir.  Take two clean washcloths and soak them in the vinegar water. Wring them out.
  • Wrap the washcloths around your hands and cover with a sock.
  • Wear this wet dressing overnight if sleeping, or for an hour at a time during the day. You can do this two to three times a day until your skin condition is under control.

Tell your own story of how you are coping with pandemic issues at the COVID-19 support group.

 

Tue, Apr 28 1:08pm · Diabetes: reducing risk in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Do you want to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 71%? If so, there are key lifestyle changes can help you achieve this goal. These changes center on:

  • Moderate weight loss
  • A healthy diet
  • Exercise

A major study known as the Diabetes Prevention Program found that older adults, in particular, can benefit from these healthy habits. Study participants age 60 or older reduced the risk of their prediabetes progressing to diabetes by 71 percent. To achieve that goal, the participants lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, ate a healthy diet, and increased their physical activity.

Due to the success of the Diabetes Prevention Program study, the federal government has sought to expand access to its interventions. Starting in April 2018, the government implemented the program for people at risk of diabetes. It’s estimated that 22 million Americans 65 and older who have prediabetes could receive free or reduced cost services from the expansion. If you qualify, you may be eligible for a year of coaching with a trained diabetes educator, who will develop a plan to improve your diet, increase physical activity and lose excess weight. People who show dedication to the program may be eligible for a second year of enrollment. You can check your eligibility and find programs near you by visiting http://www.DoIHavePrediabetes.org.

Changing your eating and exercise habits to lose weight may seem daunting, but it’s well worth the effort. And it’s never too late to start. In fact, research has shown that older adults seeking to prevent diabetes have better success in achieving exercise and weight-loss goals than do their younger counterparts.

Have you stopped your prediabetes from progressing to diabetes?

Tell others and join the conversation at the Diabetes Group.

Tue, Apr 21 10:23am · Sex after heart attack in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Contrary to popular beliefs, people who have had a heart attack often can safely have sex again once recovered. In fact, a recent study of Israeli heart attack survivors found that those who had regular sexual intercourse outlived those who were celibate, although it’s not known why.

After heart attack, it’s common to wait one to four weeks to resume sexual activities. This allows time for heart medications to be optimized, to start a program to rehabilitate your heart health (cardiac rehabilitation) and to begin treating other heart disease risk factors. If you had open-chest coronary bypass surgery, sexual activity is generally not recommended for six to eight weeks so that the breastbone (sternum) has time to heal.

Work with your doctor to determine when it’s safe for you to return to sex. This assessment may involve taking an exercise stress test and ensuring you’re following a cardiac rehabilitation program and taking medications in appropriate doses.

Sex is actually less taxing on your heart than you may think. It’s similar to climbing a few flights of stairs or slowly jogging. To minimize physical stress during sex, avoid unfamiliar surroundings and partners. Aim to be well-rested and avoid heavy meals and drinking unsafe amounts of alcohol. Erectile dysfunction drugs can be safely prescribed for those with stable heart disease, but don’t take them in combination with nitrate heart drugs.

How are you “getting back to life” after serious health event such as a heart attack?

Join the discussion at the Heart & Blood Health support group.

Tue, Apr 14 10:48am · Celiac disease: Not just for kids in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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For a long time, celiac disease was thought to be primarily a disease of childhood. But evidence from recent decades indicates a high prevalence of the disease in adults, especially seniors. About 1 in 100 adults have celiac disease. Classic signs and symptoms of celiac disease include fatigue, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain and weight loss. However, older adults tend to experience milder symptoms, such as bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort, and may not have diarrhea at all.

If you have celiac disease and eat something that contains gluten, an immune reaction inflames and swells the inner lining of your small intestine. The inner surface of a healthy small intestine is lined with millions of tiny hair-like projections called villi, which help your body absorb nutrients. Celiac disease damages the villi, causing them to shrink and disappear. As a result, the inner surface of your small intestine becomes less like a plush carpet and more like a tile floor. Instead of being absorbed, essential nutrients are eliminated through your stool.

Older adults tend to experience milder symptoms, such as bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort

Your doctor can initiate a diagnosis with a blood test and confirm it with a biopsy of the small intestine. The focus of treatment is on relieving discomfort and preventing complications, which is done primarily by following a gluten-free diet. A gluten-free diet is based on fresh fruits and vegetables, plain meats — not breaded or marinated — fish, rice, potatoes, dairy products, and gluten-free grains, such as corn, quinoa, tapioca, amaranth and buckwheat.

Recent research has identified new possible treatments — whether by a pill, vaccine or other form of therapy — that may someday allow those with celiac disease to better control their condition or even to safely consume gluten. But avoiding gluten remains the safest and best way to avoid complications from the disease.

Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease as an older adult? Share your journey: Aging Well.

Also connect with others in the Digestive Health support group.

 

Tue, Mar 31 4:13pm · Basic steps for back pain are best in Aging & Health: Take Charge

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Most cases of acute back pain don’t require a doctor’s visit. Regardless of treatment methods, most people find that pain goes away within about two to six weeks. Just because the pain will likely go away with time doesn’t mean you can’t work to ease the pain and speed healing. Try:

  • Staying as active as tolerated — Perform as much of your daily routine as possible, even with some pain, but in a gentle manner. You may be able to exercise gently or perform light back stretching and strengthening if your pain isn’t too severe. When pain diminishes, you can gradually return to your normal activity level. If pain is severe, you may have to avoid activity for one or two days while it diminishes. However, resting in bed is not recommended, as research has shown that people who rest in bed take longer to recover than do those who maintain activity as tolerated.
  • Using ice for injuries — If your back pain was caused by an injury, such as a strained muscle, you may be able to relieve some pain by wrapping an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a cloth and applying it to the painful area. Do this for the first day or two after injury for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Using heat at other times — A warm compress, heating pad or a hot bath can help relax muscles that may be tense. Use heat for up to 20 minutes three times a day. It can be used in an alternating fashion with ice as discussed above, or used alone. Never sleep with a heating pad.
  • Drugs — Nonprescription pain relievers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, others) — have the best effect on relieving acute low back pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) is another pain-relieving option that can be effective.
  • Avoid further aggravation — Don’t continue to do anything that might have caused your back pain in the first place. In addition, use good posture and limit activities that aggravate your pain, such as prolonged sitting or strenuous lifting, pulling, pushing or twisting.
  • Exercise when initial pain level declines to a tolerable level — Improvements in pain and functioning can be had with many forms of exercise. Walking, yoga and Pilates are three often-used exercises that are associated with back pain improvement. However, the best exercise is often one that you enjoy and matches well with your fitness level — and allows you to gain or maintain fitness with minimal aggravation to your back.

Join others talking about back pain in the Spine Health support group.

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